Windows computers have several layers of help. The first layer is provided by Microsoft and offers help on your operating system such as Windows XP. The second layer of help is provided by your PC manufacturer. The third layer is program help and is provided by the software vendor. In some case you may see very specific help in an application called context help.
Microsoft Interactive Training
Say what you want about Microsoft, but realize they provide a fair amount of Windows help. One problem is we tend to put blinders on and miss these options. Microsoft Interactive Training is such an example. It's a great help resource for new Windows users and a refresher for the rest of us.
This Microsoft help program provides step by step instructions on many tasks. The program has a contents pane on the left side that lists a series of topics. Some of these topics are ones which people often ask about on various support forums such as:
- Setting up your computer for multiple users
- Updating device drivers
- Setting up a home network
Clicking a topic opens a pane on the right side for the lesson. Each lesson starts with an overview of what you will learn. You can also see the time duration of the lesson at the bottom of the contents pane.
What's appealing about this help resource is it's interactive. You get to enter the commands the presenters speak. If you click the wrong option, the correct one is highlighted so you can see your mistake.
To access Microsoft Interactive Training,
1. Click your Start button
2. Select All Programs
3. Select Accessories
4. Select Microsoft Interactive Training
There is another Microsoft support resource that is a subset of their larger help system and that's the troubleshooters. Like Microsoft Interactive Training, these are also interactive. The difference is these troubleshooters are designed to find you a solution by asking a series of questions. Based on your answer, the program branches off and provides suggested steps. Most of these troubleshooters relate to hardware issues. The list will vary based on your computer but some examples are:
- Home and Small Office Networking Troubleshooter
- Sound Troubleshooter
- DVD Troubleshooter
How to Find the Microsoft Troubleshooters
1. Click your Start button
2. Click Help and Support
3. In the Search box, type troubleshooter
Computer Manufacturer Help
All Windows machines have some sort of computer support provided by the manufacturer. For example, on Windows XP machines you can access Help and Support from the Start menu. Much of this content is supplied by Microsoft. An example being the troubleshooters we mentioned above. These sections are displayed in the red box below and are the same regardless of PC vendor.
Each PC company such as Dell, Sony, Compaq and so on can customize the help and support section to best suit the specific computer. For example, if I were to click the Troubleshoot a Problem icon in the screen above, I would get a page broken down by area.
These vendor support pages are also good for finding updates to your machine. It's not uncommon for manufacturers to have their own software updates. Some of these updates can solve problems you're having so don't dismiss them.
Some manufacturers have more folders where they provide more support tools and help. As example, my notebook has a folder called VAOI Support. The same goes for my desktop machine except the vendor is Compaq/HP.
Application and What's This? Help
Despite what a sales or marketing person may tell you, no software is so easy that it can't benefit from some sort of online help. If someone tries to convince you otherwise, ask them the last time they went to a support call center and listened in on live support calls.
The good news is most programs include a help option. Many companies have "help" as the last menu option. Some will also link it to the F1 key. Although most of us are familiar with this type of help, there is a subtler type of help you may have missed called context sensitive or what's this? help.
One way to tell if a program included this type of help is to look at the title bar and see if there is a box with a ?. When you click the ?, your cursor turns into a question mark. When you then click an object you get help that is relevant to it.
For example, if I click on "Use HTTP 1.1 through proxy connections", I get more information about the option.
The above tech support resources may not answer all your support questions, but they can help you troubleshoot or solve many issues. It also pays to know what help options are available to you before you need to make the call the computer support.
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Last Updated (Friday, 18 June 2010 18:19)